By William Thompson
Workers for a contractor of Yucca Telecom broke an underground water main in Portales leaving about ten square blocks without water for about four hours, according to Portales City Manager Debi Lee.
Portales High School and the Broad Horizons Alternative School let students go home at 12:20 p.m. due to the water outage, according to Assistant Superintendent of Portales schools Priscilla Mestas.
Lee said she couldn’t say how many residents were affected, but she said full water service was restored about 4 p.m. She said the city’s water department had previously “spotted” or marked the underground water main in an alley north of East Third Street, near Globe, but a crew hit the main anyway, causing untold gallons of water to pour out.
“The reason it took so long to restore water service was the (city water department) crews had to isolate the valve responsible for the outpouring water,” Lee said. “Yucca was installing fiber optics. It’s going to be important for the city and Yucca to discuss the pace at which they are installing the fiber optics. They need to slow it down. We love Yucca as a partner and we want to applaud them for installing fiber optics in our community. We just want them to slow the process down a little, because we are concerned about the number of water lines broken.”
Yucca official Scott Arnold said the workers who broke the water main worked for a Yucca contractor called MP Nexlevel, a Minnesota-based firm. Jerry Crisp, superintendent of the MP Nexlevel crew in Portales, said the city water department had improperly spotted the water line.
“It was a mis-marked line,” Crisp said. “The mark was off. We have to go by what the water people put down for us.”
Lee said the Yucca contractor crews have broken “nine or ten water lines” in Portales since the company started fiber optics installation in January.
Lee said underground lines don’t always run in a straight line and that may have contributed to the accident, but she said Yucca was responsible for the damage to the water main.
She said city water department employees are assigned to Yucca crews to mark underground pipes in advance.
Mestas said school officials notified local radio shortly after lunch yesterday that school was letting out early. She said she hadn’t heard any complaints from parents, and the students who don’t ride school buses were picked up by family members or otherwise made it home safely.
Ruben Garcia, owner of El Rancho Restaurant, said he kept his restaurant open despite having no running water.
“We had to put the restrooms out of order, but we were able to make coffee with bottled water. We had to limit our service,”
Garcia said he heard the water outage was due to the fiber optics installation, but he said he wasn’t too upset about the accident.
“I just took it in stride,” he said. “Accidents do happen when you’re working.”